10 November 2020

Fiordland businesses say they need more help to boost the economy

A Fiordland Business Association is among the ideas being discussed to help rebuild the region’s struggling economy.

Southland District Council deputy mayor and Te Anau resident Ebel Kremer said the idea had been raised in an ideas forum and was still very much in its beginning phase.

He was hoping to “pull businesses together” for a meeting with Southland Chamber of Commerce leaders on Sunday night to discuss what support they needed, and how they could get it.

“There seems to be a desire to establish a business forum,” Kremer said.

Te Anau, Manapouri and the surrounding Fiordland economy was driven by international tourists who made up about 85 per cent of business for the area, he said.

While tourism operators had been the hardest hit by the Covid-19 border closures, lower visitor numbers had resulted in fewer shoppers, lower wages, and less money circulating, Kremer explained.

“Nobody is immune. It’s had a domino effect,” he said.

Sunday’s meeting would be held at the Distinction Luxmore Hotel because the manager was keen to see businesses supporting each other, Kremer said.

Te Anau tradesman Paul Young runs his own contracting company and thought a Fiordland-based business association was a great idea.

“We need a business hub,” he said.

Young said Fiordland was unique because of its reliance on tourists and while it often fell under the banner of Southland, a forum dedicated to the community’s specific needs would be helpful.

Graphic designer and business owner Tim Mann said what worked for the rest of Southland wouldn’t always be best for Fiordland.

“Because Te Anau is part of the Milford experience, it creates an unusual situation,” he said.

The area was of national importance and needed more than just regional support, Mann said.

A Fiordland-based business association made sense to him, he said.

Southland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sheree Carey said the chamber didn’t have many Fiordland members as they traditionally opted to join the regional tourism organisation Destination Fiordland instead.

The chamber would be talking to business owners about the options available to them, she said, which included joining the chamber or setting up their own association or support system.

Other options were to conduct a leadership academy or for the chamber to arrange consultations with business strategists, Carey added.

The chamber would guide the business community through the process of establishing a regional entity if that was what they needed, she said.

“We’re here to support Southland businesses. It’s totally up to them. They know what their community needs.”

Carey said the regional development agency Great South had recently employed a business support person for Te Anau.

Destination Fiordland manager Madeleine Peacock said she hadn’t been part of discussions about a business association, but pointed out that the regional tourism organisation didn’t operate as a chamber as it focused on tourism businesses.

She was generally supportive of the concept of a regionally-focused business body.

“There’s a need for a collaborative approach to business development in Fiordland,” Peacock said.

Article published by Southland Times – 10 November 2020

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